Oh it was a beautiful and sunny day today...even with all that crazy wind! It was so wonderful that it didn't snow like the weather report called for and I was able to spend some time with Aspen.
Two days ago a naughty, and yet to be identified, horse undid the latch between the paddock where Aspen and Bambi (the donkey) were staying and the 40+ acre pasture. When I arrived yesterday she was out in the far corner of the pasture away from the herd and amongst all the cows. She saw me and headed right over to see me. I think at this point she knows I have her grain and Dynamite vitamins and she's not going to let an opportunity pass to see what goodies I come bearing. The other horses of course saw the grain and tried to mob me for it - but I had planned ahead for this! My weapons of choice were my trusty Pomeranian, Oliver (to create a diversion) and my carrot stick and string! I chased the other horses away from her and stood with her while she ate. She didn't seem too concerned that the other horses had left but upon finishing her food she up and left without so much as a thank you. Started moseying their direction then "took off" like a lightening bolt in this lovely rocking horse canter to join them up front by the barn. She seems a little unsure of her place among everyone in the herd. No one really socializes with her and she is a more reserved horse anyway so I imagine it will take her some time to make some friends.
Today when I arrived ALL the horses were up by the barn and Aspen was out in the pasture by herself. But she saw me coming and came over to see me. I let her eat her grain in the round pen while I brushed her (poor thing has a few kick marks). Then I went on to playing some basic friendly game. I can toss the string anywhere over her body but if I move suddenly, especially in zones 4 and 5, she gets worried. She's not spooking or running, but her head goes up and she tries to move that zone away from me and face me instead. She's very confident with me in zone 1 and 2, but as I move farther back she's got mixed feelings of being defensive and concerned. I also really noticed how SENSITIVE she is to my body language. She'll be grazing and I stand up straight and she's got her eyes on me. So with this in mind I need to try and redefine my phase 1 for her, and HOLD it LONGER. My plan for the next few days is to only use my stick and string for friendly (working towards extreme friendly) and use my body language to get her to move away from me. I don't want her to become skeptical or anticipatory of the stick, so until she gains more confidence with it - unless I have to - I'm going to do my best not to pick it up.
At one point I just felt that she was getting kind of gummy in her mind. She was struggling to squeeze when walking to the right (clockwise) but was fine going to the left. She always puts me on her left so when she's asked to squeeze and present her right side to me it looks like too much pressure right now. She kept getting a little sticky - I can't really explain it, it wasn't her feet, it was just her "feel". So I stopped and waited, giving me time to think and her time to process. It seemed like ETERNITY that I waited, while she stood seemingly totally relaxed, ignoring me. Then she closed her eyes, blinked, took in a big breath then let out a HUGE sigh, licked and chewed, and came right over to put her forehead on my chest. It was totally sweet and touched me. I hadn't realized how much she'd been bottling up. Definitely seeing more RBI here in a learning situation. Didn't help that the wind was causing lots of spooky things to happen in zone 4 and 5 which had her uncomfortable.
I'm very excited about the potential I see in Aspen. I just need to preserve her sensitivity to my body language and build her confidence in herself/environment, and her trust in me.
Have two busy days of work coming up so probably won't see Aspen again until Sunday :(